This weeks Fiction Friday prompt on Write Anything was difficult for me. The last few prompts caused an idea to spring to mind which I then formed into a story. This time around I spent several days simply trying to come up with a storyline to fit the prompt. It wasn’t until I tried mind mapping that I came up with something that got me excited.
After my rough mind map was complete, I began typing up a storm. The final product was a bit surprising due to the length of the piece. For one reason or another, my pieces seem to be among the longer submissions for Fiction Friday (it seems that way anyway). I’m not sure if that is due to my wanting to provide back-story on all characters or if I simply lack the skill to write a gripping piece in just a couple hundred words. Regardless of the reason, I’m pretty happy with the story I’ve created and hope you like it as well.
Fiction Friday #152
A segregated audience at a school play leads to a town revelation.
“Silvia, I’m going to get Billy out of class now” Elizabeth Walker’s voice was gentle after a soft tap upon the open office door. Only her head was visible as she gently grasped the door frame and stretched her neck around the open door.
“Just a moment Liz, I’ll come along with you”. Silvia’s words were hasty and she tossed her papers onto her desk and leaped to her feet. A smile spread across Elizabeth’s lips and she let out a small giggle while shaking her head. “I’m sorry Liz, I’m just so excited about tonight. The show starts in just a few hours and we have so much to do.”
Silvia closed the door behind her and the pair made their way down the lonely corridor. The usual voices of children conversing in the halls were absent. Children sat quietly within their classrooms listening to teachers pour forth knowledge. The eerie silence in the hall was broken by a loud pop as Elizabeth’s heel made contact with the cold stone floor. Slivia’s rubber soled slippers made little more than a whisper as the two strode down the empty hall.
“This school has never seen an audience like this Silvia. In all my years, never has a student play brought so many people to our little auditorium.” The excitement was overwhelming and Elizabeth could not keep the smile from her face. When overly excited, she had a goofy smile that struck others as odd rather than merry.
“From the advanced ticket sales alone we are going to have to do two showings, at least. I hope the kids are up for it. Elizabeth’s odd smile was contagious causing Silvia’s words to come out with a slight giggle in them. Silvia was the schools theater instructor and this very moment was clearly the highlight in her teaching career.
Looking over at Silvia, Elizabeth gave the woman a sly smile and glared at her through partially squinted eyes. “Thomas Craig will be here this evening”.
At the words, Silvia’s eyes light up and she make a sound that was half shriek, half giggle. “Does Billy know?”
“No, I just got word myself. I don’t think we should spring it on the boy, he is under so much pressure as it is with a representative from Juilliard here to see his play. No need in adding to it by telling him that someone from the newspaper will be here as well”
The two continued to speak quietly to one another as they walked down the corridor. Theirs words were hushed by the faint sounds of voices speaking from behind classroom doors and punctuated by the rhythmic popping of Elizabeth’s short stride.
A gentle rap at the door broke Billy Abrahm’s attention. His eyes slid from the problem in his math book and to Mrs. Walker’s head as she awkwardly poked it into the classroom. The distraction was appreciated. There was simply too much going on for Billy to try and solve these complex mathematical problems just a few short hours before his big show.
“Ms Durch, would you mind if I borrowed Billy for the remainder of the class?” Elizabeth kept her voice as low as possible as to not distract studying students. Despite her hushed voice, pitched for Ms. Durch’s ears alone, the awkward angle at which her head passed through the door and into the classroom raised several giggles.
“Not at all Mrs. Walker. Billy, you may be excused, hurry along now”
Billy quickly rose from his chair and tucked his textbook and notebook under his arm. With his belongings in tow, he hurried out of the classroom and silently closed the door behind him.
“Billy, I apologize for taking you out of class so abruptly but I wanted to give you some extra time to look over things in the auditorium before things get busy”. Elizabeth’s words were slung over her shoulder as she and Silvia began making their way to the school auditorium.
“Thank you Mrs. Walker, Ms. Pratchet, the play has been on my mind all day. I appreciate the extra time to prepare things”. Billy was on their heels in a few long strides, easily keeping pace with the two middle-aged woman quickly making their way towards the auditorium.
“As it stands, we have sold nearly five-hundred advanced tickets. I’m not sure how many we will sell at the door, but It looks as if you will have at least two showings tonight, probably three. Do you think you can handle that?”
“Absolutely Ms. Pratchet. I’m nervous but I think the performers are up to the task. My job is easy, I just have to oversee the play and take credit for writing it when it is time to take out bows”. The words came easy but there was a sudden knot in his guts. “Just nerves, it’ll pass”, Billy thought to himself.
“From the looks of it, the play should raise around five-thousand dollars to be put towards your tuition. Juilliard is very expensive Billy, if you get in you need to understand that this fund-raiser is just a portion of what you’ll need. Don’t let that bother you now though, I have a feeling we may have to do this performance a few more times after tonight. It is very good after all”.
“Thank you Ms. Pratchet. I’m very proud of this piece as well.”
As the words passed through Billy’s lips, they arrived at the auditorium and pass through its wide oak doors. The rhythmic pop of Elizabeth’s heels on stone changed to a dull thud as they made contact with the carpeted room. A single stage light was on as a few members of the crew assembled a piece of the set.
“Ladies and Gentleman, we are proud to present you with the first showing of A Rose among the Moonlight”. The boys voice squeaked just before he hustled across the stage and out of view of the audience.
Benjamin Olson shifted in his seat to get comfortable just as the piano filled the small room with the opening music. Benjamin, or Old Man Benny as the kids called him, was a veteran of high school plays. It Didn’t matter how good or bad a play was, he never missed a performance.
Long before Benjamin became Old Man Benny, he spent his time in the local theaters while his mother worked for the war effort. He was especially fond of those practiced in front of a small audience before the performers went to Europe to entertain the troops. Many years passed since then and the only thing that came close to those intimate plays were done here at the tiny Stoneybrook High School Auditorium.
Back in those days Benjamin was too young to go to war and not old enough to work in the factories. Sure, he could have slipped away and got a job but his mother forbade it. She told him that his father was putting his life in great danger by fighting. She was not going to risk the life of her son as well by sending him off to work in some dirty factory. Instead, she sent him off to the local theater where he could pass the time in safety. The performers begged for an audience to practice in front of and took the boy in with open-arms.
As Benjamin got up in his years, his mind drifted more easily. The simple act of sitting in a small, crowded room with people acting on stage brought back a flood of memories. Over the last few years the man did more reminiscing than he did watching.
Throughout the performance Benjamin’s mind drifted in and out of thought. As he stared up at the stage through weary eyes. The act seemed familiar but he could not place it. “Bah, this can’t be familiar. The paper says its an original play written by Willian Abrahms.” The thought passed through his mind just as easily as it came and once again, his mind drifted to fond memories of smoky theaters.
While lost in a tangle of memories, Benjamin began to whisper. “Times may be hard but we will word hard and prosper”. Just as the last words were uttered, a young woman on stage echoed the line in a powerful voice. “You are right my dearest, nothing will hold us back from our dreams”. This time the whisper was slightly louder and followed by the bellowing voice of a young performer.
Hearing the words, a man wearing a suite and holding a small notebook began staring intently at Benjamin. It was clear that the mans eyes begged the question, are my ears playing a tick on me?
As is a performer himself, Benjamin spoke the next line. “It means the world to me to hear you speak those words with such passion”. Once again, the female performer spoke her lines clearly for the audience.
A young girl leaned over and whispered to the man intently staring at Benjamin. “Uncle Tommy, does that man know the play”
“I don’t know Molly, this play is said to be an original”. The words were filled with curiosity as Thomas Craig whispered to his young niece. Whispers were beginning to circulate among audience that Old Man Benny must be having some sort of episode.
Through the whispers of the audience, Benjamin suddenly stood with tears shining in his eyes. “I speak the words passionately because you mean the world to me my darling. You are my Rose among the Moonlight”. The volume behind his words shook him from his memories. Suddenly Benjamin realized that he was standing and every eye in the audience was fixed on him.
“I…. I…. I’m sorry. It’s just been a long time, a very long time. Please excuse an old man’s mind. It’s just that I saw this play with my late wife on the day that I proposed. The performance was stunning, it must have jarred some old memories loose” Benjamin was ashamed of himself for causing such a scene. He was becoming frightened under the full attention of everyone in the small auditorium. Not knowing what else to do, Benjamin spoke quickly as he began shuffling through the aisle towards the exit. “Pardon my interruption, I’m see myself out.
Thomas Craig watched the old man. As he began to leave, the light caught his face just so. Fresh tracks of tears were apparent on the mans old wrinkly skin. The man was embarrassed, crying, and wanted nothing more than to be out from under the watchful eyes of the audience.
As Benjamin pushed through the heavy wooden doors, light spilled into the auditorium. The light created a perfect path down the exit row and ended at the base of the stage. At the end of that path of light stood a young both with his head in his hands. The boy made no sound but his body heaved with every jagged breath. The boy was sobbing.
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